Press Release

‘Shuttle Sisters’ at NASA’s Marshall Center live their dreams with

By SpaceRef Editor
February 27, 2002
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"Sisters is probably the most competitive relationship within the
family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest
relationship." – Margaret Mead

You can’t blame 97-year-old Amanda Dabney of Decatur, Ala., for
bragging about her two granddaughters, sisters Amanda Harris-Goodson
and Yolanda Harris. Both are part of the Space Shuttle Project Office
team at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in nearby Huntsville.

"If you ask her, she’ll tell you we run this place and we make sure
each Space Shuttle launch is a success," says Goodson of her
grandmother, as a broad smile eases across her face.

"And you just don’t argue with your grandmother."

Especially when your grandmother’s lived a lot of history.

What Amanda Dabney has lived, seen, and learned – she instilled, even
way back when, in her two young granddaughters. She taught them the
joy – and necessity – of education, and equally as important, to
believe in oneself.

For the two sisters, growing up in Decatur meant strong family and
church ties, juggling marching band, piano lessons, and dreams.

"We knew early on we had to achieve," says Goodson.®‡ Øquot;Everyone – not
just our parents -set high standards. In fact, people we didn’t even
know — but who knew our mom and dad — would remind us how smart our
parents were. And then tell us they expected the same of us."

Today, Goodson, an engineer, is director of the Marshall Center’s
Safety and Mission Assurance Office. She oversees safety and quality
activities on all Marshall Center programs.

Harris, also an engineer, served as team lead of the Systems
Engineering group in Marshall’s Shuttle Integration office until last
year. Today she is on temporary assignment at the Office of Space
Flight at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., working with the
Space Shuttle office as a liaison to Marshall’s Space Shuttle Project
Office. She also handles U.S. Congressional actions on launch and
legislative issues – including safety.

"It is a privilege to be involved in the launch of the Space Shuttle,
" says Goodson, who has been with NASA 18 years. "Marshall’s continued
commitment to the safe flight of each Shuttle is an integral role that
those of us who work here play each day."

"Everyone in the Space Shuttle program is our family," adds Harris.
"Because we feel like family, it makes flight safety such an important
message. You always want to keep your family safe.

"The Marshall Center serves as a key leader for NASA’s research and
development of propulsion systems that enable safe, reliable and
lower-cost access to space and space exploration. Marshall manages the
Shuttle’s External Tank, Solid Rocket Boosters – which include the
Reusable Solid Rocket Motor – and Main Engines.

"When we were kids, Amanda used to tell me she wanted a fun job," says
Harris, teasing her older sister. "One where she could tell people
what to do."

The nuts and bolts of NASA rocketry never entered the young women’s
minds back then.

Because both women had a love of science and math, they followed in
the footsteps of their late father, Harold Harris, majoring in
electrical engineering. Both sisters graduated from Tuskegee
University in Tuskegee, Ala.

The sisters are keenly aware that even today, women engineers are rare
– and female African-American engineers even more rare. They each
achieved their goals. Plus some additional, personal choices in life.

"Yolanda wanted to be a lawyer — and she is. I wanted to be a leader
— and I am," says Goodson. "You can’t let limiting beliefs control
your life.

You should decide the kind of person you want to be, and you create
that person. "You should create a niche: Do things no one else can do
or will do. You should pursue excellence and goals that will allow you
to reach your full potential."

Though Goodson had other job offers when she graduated from Tuskegee
in 1983, she chose an internship with the Marshall Center’s Product
Assurance Office in the Science and Engineering Directorate.

"With NASA, you know you are on the leading edge of the future," says
Goodson. "Every day is a new day with different challenges and
solutions. Even the stressful days are fun."

The sisters’ paths diverged as Harris completed her bachelor’s degree
at Tuskegee in 1986, and earned her Juris Doctor degree from the
University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 1989.

Goodson rose through the ranks of Marshall’s Safety and Mission
Assurance Office. And worked to earn a master’s degree in management
from Florida Institute of Technology, a doctor of ministry from United
Theological Seminary and completed NASA’s Senior Executive Service
Career Development Program.

The sisters’ paths converged in 1991 when Harris became a quality
engineer in Marshall’s Safety and Mission Assurance Office, working
with the External Tank and Solid Rocket Booster Projects and the Space
Station Furnace Facility Project.

"I couldn’t help but catch Amanda’s excitement about the Space Shuttle
and NASA," she explains.

Harris, an active member of the Alabama State Bar Association, also
has made a difference at Marshall with positions of increased
responsibility in the Shuttle Projects Office.

Both women have been honored with NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal, as
well as numerous other awards.

In their spare time, both sisters enjoy speaking about NASA and giving
motivational talks to church groups, clubs, civic and professional
groups, youth groups and school students. "That’s something we both
share: We love to talk," adds Harris.

As a teen-ager, Goodson felt she had limits. She now sees them as
opportunities for growth – a message she likes to share. "Kids today
need to see what is at their fingertips," says Goodson.

Setting goals and challenging themselves is a life-long habit for the
two women.

"Expect the best and the best will come," says Goodson. "I believe you
should envision yourself in the future and work toward that goal. And,
if you don’t like what you’re doing now, recalibrate and focus on what
you want to be. Live your life to reflect what you want to be."

Harris laughs at her sister’s response, and adds: "I can’t say it any
better than that."

SpaceRef staff editor.